Everyone who knows me knows that I am a diehard New Orleans Saints fan. Win, lose or draw, the Saints are my team. Few folks know, however, that I am such a diehard fan because of my uncle, Clevon Walker. Today, we will lay my uncle to rest and, in his honor (and in honor of the Saints winning their pre-season opener), I am compelled to pen this tribute.
As a very young kid, I didn't always understand why my uncle rooted for a team that "he knew would lose". But, he did and I admired his loyalty and tenacity. And, for a few years, when the Saints won, I think I actually cheered more for my uncle than the team. Last night, I learned, while sitting around and sharing memories with my family, that my uncle always liked the underdog. And, all diehard New Orleans Saints fans (actually, all NFL fans) know that we were the underdogs for many years. But, my uncle was unwavering in his commitment to the hometeam.
As I thought about what I might write about my uncle's commitment to the team, I realized that being a true New Orleans Saints fan is not for the faint of heart. It takes grit and sheer willpower. It is like loving a child - no matter how badly she behaves, you love her anyway. There are so many life lessons wrapped up into being a real fan. This goes beyond football, people! And, that is why, when we win, we celebrate harder. I did not say recklessly but harder. And, when we lose, the sting lasts longer. Our passion comes from a place deep within. So, here's my Top 10 list of must-haves for New Orleans Saints fans (and there will be no grammatical parallelism, here):
(10) Faith - According to Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." If ever you want to go beyond your wildest dreams, you have to have faith. And that faith has to sustain you and propel to believe that He will provide "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."
(9) Believe - You have to believe in yourself as well as in something greater than yourself. I am a believer in Christ and I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
(8) Bless You Boys - As we seek to be blessed in our lives, we should always look to bless others. As Matthew 5:44 states, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
(7) Blackout - The concept of a blackout is something that I literally remember learning at my Uncle Clevon's and Aunt Loretta's house in Marrero. What was this: if there weren't enough tickets sold, locally, we weren't going to be able to watch the game? What seemed like an anomaly, then, became a regular "threat" for Saints fans. But, somehow, some way, things always worked out in the end. I guess the saying is true - it is always darkest before the dawn.
(6) Not Everyone Cheers for the Home Team - In a nutshell, not everyone is in your corner. There are going to be folks in life who, right or wrong, do not like you. They do not have your best interest at heart. They do not support your goals, dreams or ambitions. But, so what? Stop waiting on an apology. You may never get it. Stop trying to force folks to love you or "cheer for you". They may not. And, it's okay. Love them, anyway. Pray for them, anyway. Forgive them, anyway. Forgiveness is not about them - it's about you.
(5) Home Field Advantage - As Dorothy reminded us, there is no place like home. Despite the advantages of home, sometimes, we have to move away to make a way. Leaving home isn't always an easy decision to make but it is often a necessary decision. Some people may not like your decision - be it to move away from home, leave your church, etc. - but it is your decision. And, of course, home is where the heart is.
(4) Saints Ain't the Aint's No Mo! - No matter how down you may feel, you can win! We all have our moments of hurt, defeat, and depression but that doesn't have to be the end of your story. Trust, believe, and have faith because you are more than a conqueror.
(3) Fleur de Lis - Do you know that "fleur de lis" literally translates to "Flower of the Lily"? And, of course, we all know who is considered the "Lily of the Valley". There is an entire sermon to this but consider this scripture about the splendor of the lily. Matthew 6:28-29, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." You are splendid. You are SAINTsational!
(2) Who Dat? - Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder, "Who Dat?" Okay, perhaps, you do not say it like that. But, many of us go through life wondering who we are and what our purpose is. For me, and again, I am a believer in Christ, my purpose is to worship, work and witness for Jesus. So, who am I? I am a child of the MOST HIGH GOD! I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
(1) CHAMPION! - Isn't it amazing how a lump of coal can be transformed into a diamond? It's not an easy process but the end result makes it worthwhile. In this life, people may wear bags over their heads and dismiss you. They may tell you all that you cannot and will not be or do. But, what you should know is when they tell you what you cannot do, they are really telling you the limits that they have placed on themselves. But, as the people like to say, "The Devil is a Liar!" You are a winner. You are a champion!
I had the pleasure, honor and awesome privilege of seeing my New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl XLIV. One of the very first people I wanted to share my excitement with was my Uncle Clevon. Although he is no longer physically present, he will be with us every time we celebrate a Saints win. Until we meet again, Uncle, I know you'll be watching the game from the best seats in the house!